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Carlee Russell could face 2 charges after abduction hoax, prosecutor says

HOOVER, Ala. — The Alabama woman who admitted to lying about being abducted after she claimed to see a child wandering on the side of the interstate could face two charges, a prosecutor said Thursday.

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Jefferson County Chief Assistant District Attorney Lane Tolbert told ABC News and Fox News Digital that police are seeking a pair of charges against Carlee Russell: falsely reporting an incident and false reporting to law enforcement authorities. The charges are both misdemeanors that carry maximum sentences of one year in jail.

It was not immediately clear when charges might be filed. Chief Nicholas Derzis said Monday that police were discussing Russell’s case with prosecutors to determine possible charges.

“We will announce those charges when and if they are filed,” he said.

In a statement shared Monday by Russell’s attorney, the 25-year-old admitted to faking her disappearance on July 13. Authorities said she vanished after calling 911 to report seeing a diaper-clad child walking alongside Interstate 459 in Hoover. After she returned to her home on July 15, she claimed that she had been abducted.

“There was no kidnapping on Thursday, July 13, 2023,” Derzis said at a news conference Monday, reading a statement from Russell’s attorney, Emory Anthony. “My client did not see a baby on the side of the road. My client did not leave the Hoover area when she was identified as a missing person. My client did not have any help in this incident. This was a single act done by herself.”

It was not immediately clear why Russell faked her abduction. On Monday, Anthony asked people for their “prayers for Carlee as she addresses her issues and attempts to move forward, understanding that she made a mistake in this matter.”

News of Russell’s disappearance launched a massive search that included a slew of volunteers and officials from several agencies.

“The sad thing is that, again, there were so many people that were involved (that) took this thing very seriously, and again, we wanted the focus to be, ‘Bring her home,’” Derzis said Monday. “She got home. We’re excited about that. You know just, it is what it is.”

Authorities said that before her disappearance, Russell made a number of suspicious online searches. She looked for information on the maximum age for an Amber Alert, checked for bus tickets from Birmingham to Nashville, Tennessee, on the day of her disappearance and searched for the 2008 film “Taken,” which centers around an abduction, Derzis said. The chief also noted that while she told a 911 operator that she was following a toddler on the interstate, she traveled about 600 feet.

In his statement, Anthony shared Russell’s apologies to the community, volunteers, officials, friends and her family members.

“Carlee again asks for your forgiveness and prayers,” the statement read.